Release date: February 19, 2016
Studio: Focus Features
Director: Stephen Hopkins
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements and language)
Starring: Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons, Carice van Houten, Shanice Banton, William Hurt
Race is an appropriate title for the film chronicling a historical hiccup in the Nazi doctrine of Aryan supremacy. A little hiccup named Jesse Owens. Owens was at the top of American track and field and heralded as the World’s fastest man. But, he was never faster than life.
I liked the way the film not only highlighted the intense athletic training and overwhelming prowess it took for Owens to take over the American track and field world but it showed his flaws as well. Being a humble man of extremely low means his just going to college was a massive deal for him. Add in the adoring fans (to a certain extent, this was 1930’s America), woman, and more money than he’d ever seen it was a recipe for a man to lose himself and lose himself he did. All of this turmoil and determination to find himself again and be the best was portrayed by Stephan James with great deftness. He embodies that wide eyed black man discovering the world for the first time. Larry Snyder, Owens’track coach at The Ohio State University (played by Jason Sudeikis) good in his role as the wise ass former track star. Sudeikis plays the role with a humor and subtle brokenness that elevates the chemistry between him and James as student and pupil. The supporting cast is fine with the standout supporting performance made by Jeremy Irons. I will say that the races are kind of anti-climatic. Dramatic in their build up but kind of just happen.
The thing I appreciated the most about this story is that there was no “white savior” in it that many films have in them. Movies like The Blindside or Dangerous Minds, show an under privileged Black or Latino character(s) in them that have all of their problems solved by a “White” knight as if that was the missing ingredient in their lives. I don’t mean to make it sound as if I’m focusing entirely on race here but there is an overwhelmingly large amount of these inspirational stories out there on film.
In the end, Race is a nice film for Black History Month that thankfully doesn’t focus on the big 2 (MLK, Malcolm X) or anything slavery related. Hell, it’s a decent movie for anytime of the year. Solid performances, chemistry between the two main characters, and a world wide desire to see anything that shows Hitler losing at life allows me to give this picture my stamp of approval.